oven polenta

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies

Jump straight to the Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies recipe.

I love corn, I love cornmeal, and I adore polenta. Steve wants nothing to do with it. So more for me.

polenta with roasted veggies

But everyone knows that polenta is a giant pain in the ass because of all that blasted stirring. I’ve made it in the crockpot; it eliminates the stirring, but also stiffens up the polenta so it’s like those little tubes you buy of ready made polenta at the store. This, my friends, is not the polenta of the Italian grandmother you may have had, or in my case, pine for on occasion. (I had a German grandmother on one side who could bake but preferred riding horses, and a French/Danish/Irish one on the other, who made weird multicolored popcorn balls and sauerkraut. Never polenta.)

Bon Appetit was one of my early cooking teachers, and it remains one of my favorite arrivals. I still like print magazines and probably always will. Leafing through the October issue, I saw what looked like a lovely bowl of polenta and a pan of roasted mushrooms. Most intriguing, the polenta was baked in the oven right alongside the veggies. The recipe subhead reads: “Call it cheating—we call it 30 minutes you don’t need to spend standing at the stove.”

Count me IN.

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: The Prep

Look, why just roast a pan of mushrooms when you also have some eggplant and red bell pepper to use up? And why only add thyme when you also have some rosemary growing in a pot? These are questions I ask myself frequently, especially after a recent mild talking-to that Steve and I gave to ourselves about better using the virtual fruit of the refrigerator.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

I cubed the eggplant and pepper; I’d bought the shrooms sliced, so they were good to go. Roasting veggies is not a recipe thing, people. You put them in a bowl, add some oil, fresh herbs and garlic if you’re so inclined, seasonings. Then spread them on a sheet pan and roast them.
One new wrinkle that the recipe provides, and that I decided to give a try: Begin the roasting process at a measly 325º. I typically go for the max carmelization delivered by a hotter oven, but….why not?

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Veggies in oven, I heated broth and water together to a boil. The recipe specified water only, but long ago I learned that if you can sub something for the water, do it; more flavor.

I whisked in the polenta, covered the pot, then put it right in the oven. The nice low temp ensured that the polenta would cook gently all by itself. Then I sat down and played the piano for a while, because that is an amazing thing to be able to do while you wait for the timer to ring.

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: Finishing

After about half an hour, the polenta was ready to come out. When I looked at it and shook the pan, I thought….this cannot be! The polenta was still liquid. But then I stirred it and found that it had indeed started to thicken to the perfect polenta consistency. I removed it, gave it a good whisk, and left it on the stove top.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Now I cranked up the oven—the recipe actually instructs, “Crank up the oven”—to its highest temp, which on mine is 550º. Zoinks! The vegetables crisped up after about 10 minutes.

Then we went on a walk for about 40 minutes, with of course everything out of the oven. In that time, the polenta had set up beautifully: pourable, but not a soup, just that wonderful hybrid of liquid and solid that means ideal polenta. Without the walk, I would have kept the stove on its very lowest setting to give the polenta just a little more incentive to thicken.
But seriously, it was lovely.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: The Recipe

stuffed acorn squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

stuffed-acorn-squash

Jump straight to the Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe.

It’s squash season. Bright orange pumpkins of all sizes, ecru butternut, forest green acorn, mad scientist-y turban, and all sorts of weird warty things. What to do with this bounty? Stuff it! This adaptation of a Clean Eating recipe, which I made the other night, changed up my game big time.

And why was that game so changed? Well, I’ve made stuffed squash before and always felt like it was kind of meh. It’s been a while, and I freely admit that I could have been doing a lot of things wrong. But my memories were a sort of bland, healthy filling and a squash that was a little stiff and not perfectly baked, and also—again—just sort of boring.

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Squash

The beauty of this technique is how simple it is. You know, the “why haven’t I done this all along?” kind of simple. Heat up your oven, cut the squash in half, season it….

stuffed-acorn-squash

….wrap it in parchment, and bake it. The recipe calls for foil, but I don’t trust it. (This same issue of the magazine has a bunch of myth-busting, one of which is that it’s ok to cook in aluminum, but still….parchment makes a cool noise!)

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Stuffing

While the squash bakes, you make up your yummy sauce. As usual, I improvised off the recipe recommendations. I sautéed onions and mushrooms—onions and any sautéeable veggie you have on hand would work. Bell peppers are a natural this time of year, as are carrots and celery in any season. I added a spicy chicken sausage I had on hand, having been recently chastised for not using turkey sausage in time (man, does that stuff get funky quick). This subbed for regular old ground turkey in the recipe, and if I’d used that, I would have upped the spice quotient, because it, too, can be super blandorama. (I realized crumbled tempeh would have worked great for a meatless version as well, and there are enough spices in this that it wouldn’t taste like b.s., which tempeh does if you don’t spice it up.)

stuffed-acorn-squash

Speaking of spices, I used the recommended ones from the original recipe, and also doubled the tomato paste quantity. I realized afterward I have some red pepper soup sitting in the fridge that would have also been a dynamite substitute for tomato sauce. Next time. And you could easily make this southwestern by using cumin, oregano, chili powder, and just a pinch of cinnamon.

By the time I’d finished putting the sauce together, the squash had 25 minutes to cook—exactly the amount of time the sauce needed to simmer.

After that, I just took the squash halves from the oven, unwrapped them—they were wonderfully soft, perfectly cooked…

stuffed-acorn-squash

…and filled them with sauce. Oh, at the last minute, I stirred some nutritional yeast into the sauce.

stuffed-acorn-squash

Big flavor, a little more texture. I strewed some fresh basil across the top.

Wow, what a great fall dinner. And even greater is that I finally learned how to do a stuff squash that is both yummy and virtuously healthy. Enjoy.

stuffed acorn squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Recipe



Sauteed Collard Greens

Like classic sauteed green beans are so simple and tasty, they hardly need explaining, or a recipe. But I include this because, well, some people just like recipes. This is for you, buckaroos!

To learn more about prepping collard greens, view this Le Chou Fou WTF, CSA? post.

This version is, effectively, the same as the green beans version linked above. It is no less inspired by the southern U.S. than the other; as noted in the previous recipe, a sauté of the freshest greens you can find, beans or leaves, in a little bit of hog fat, pretty much screams classic southern cooking. But I also suggest some variations. In fact, classic sauteed greens also pair up beautifully with plant-based “bacons”, a variety of which are featured in these vegan bacon recipes from Clean Eating. Just note the slightly different technique.

And now, a step by step walk through, or, if you prefer, jump to the recipe.

  1. Pull the leaves of the collards away from the stems, or at least trim the stems way down.sauteed collard greens prior to cooking
  2. Roll up the collard leaves and slice thinly. If desired, cut the rolled slices in smaller pieces.chopped sauteed collard greens
  3. If using bacon, place 1 slice for every two handfuls of beans in a cold sauté pan over medium high heat; this ensures that the bacon browns evenly, and doesn’t start sizzling and burning immediately. If not using bacon, heat the pan, then add about 1 tablespoon of oil—olive, canola, or coconut—for every 4-8 ounces of greens. I tend to prefer less oil, but some folks like their greens pretty oiled up. Your preference.
  4. If using bacon, once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan. Either way, add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped onions, shallots, or scallions to the hot fat and stir for about a minute. Then add the sliced and/or chopped greens, tossing to coat with oil.
  5. After 4-5 minutes of stirring and cooking the greens and onions, add 1 tablespoon of water or broth at a time; once again, you don’t need much, but if you want them a little softer and/or soupier, add more liquid. Cover the pan tightly and let steam approx 2-3 minutes. When you remove the lid, the greens should be brilliant green; taste to make sure the texture is as you like.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar if you like. Stir for about 1 minute; depending on the quality of the vinegar, it may get a little syrupy.
  7. Top with the cut-up bacon, or your choice of vegan bacon.sauteed collard greensAll purpose and wonderful, these greens can really be served on the side of just about any dish, in any season.

 

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Classic Sauteed Collard

Greens Recipe

 

classic-green-beans-recipe

Classic Sautéed Green Beans

Classic sauteed green beans are so simple and tasty, they hardly need explaining, or a recipe. But I include this because once in a while, you need a little bit of a jog.

To learn more about buying and prepping green beans, view this Le Chou Fou WTF, CSA? post.

This version was inspired by a recipe in Time-Life’s Foods of the World series, American Cooking: Southern Style. Indeed, a sauté of the freshest greens you can find, beans or leaves, in a little bit of hog fat, pretty much screams classic southern cooking. But I also suggest some variations. In fact, classic sauteed green beans also pair up beautifully with plant-based “bacons”, a variety of which are featured in these vegan bacon recipes from Clean Eating. Just note the slightly different technique.

And now, a step by step walk through, or, if you prefer, jump to the recipe.

  1. Snap or trim the stems off your beans. A generous handful makes a great serving size. Chop some kind of onion, 1-2 tablespoons for each handful of beans.classic-green-beans-recipe
  2. If using bacon, place 1 slice for every two handfuls of beans in a cold sauté pan over medium high heat; this ensures that the bacon browns evenly, and doesn’t start sizzling and burning immediately. If not, heat the pan, then add about 1 tablespoon of oil—olive, canola, or coconut—for every 2 handfuls of beans.
  3. If using bacon, once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan. Either way, add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped onions, shallots, or scallions to the hot fat and stir for about a minute. Then add the green beans, tossing to coat with oil.classic-green-beans-recipe
  4. After 1-2 minutes of cooking the green beans and onions, add 1 tablespoon of water or broth for every 2 handfuls of beans. Cover the pan tightly and let steam approx 2-3 minutes. When you remove the lid, the beans should be bright green, and crispy but not starchy tasting.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for every 2 handfuls of beans. Stir for about 1 minute; depending on the quality of the vinegar, it may get a little syrupy.
  6. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh herbs for each handful of beans; I used mint, but dill, tarragon, and parsley are all very fine choices. Top with the cut-up bacon, or your choice of vegan bacon.

It is worth noting that acid, such as in the balsamic vinegar, will turn the beans a dull olive color over time; they still taste fine, but keep this in mind, preferably only adding the balsamic within 15 minutes of serving.

These make a truly lovely dinner with just corn on the cob and maybe some sweet potato fries on the side. Enjoy.

classic-green-beans-recipe

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Classic Sauteed Green Beans Recipe

 

Spicy, Sugar-Free Vegan BBQ Sauce with a Touch of Miso

Spicy Sugar-Free Vegan BBQ Sauce

Spicy Sugar-Free Vegan BBQ Sauce

Go to any grocery store in the country, high-end, low, or somewhere in the middle, and you will find a dozen different barbecue sauces. Smoky, tomato-y, sweet and sticky—pretty much whatever you want. So why make your own? Read More